A watchdog found no misconduct but a lawsuit remains before the courts
Thursday, May 27, 2021
Good Morning!
We know it can be a little tricky at the moment to share Current stories with others on social media. That’s something we are working on, and we hope to have some exciting improvements soon. In the meantime, and since some of you have asked, here’s how to share our stories. The easiest way is simply to share our Facebook posts. Those usually go up the day of the newsletter: just click that share button. But not everyone uses Facebook. So the other thing you can do is to scroll to the verrrry top of this email. See the little link that says "open in browser"? Right click on that (or, if you’re on a phone, hold your finger on it) and select "copy link." Now, you can just paste that in an email, or a social media post, or in a message to a friend. After all, and as I’m sure my kids will finally understand after the next lecture they receive, sharing is caring.  —Tyler Olsen, managing editor
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A review has found an Abbotsford Police officer didn’t commit misconduct when a farmworker was injured last year. 📸  Tyler Olsen
Farmworker case closed—but only partly

A police watchdog has declared no misconduct took place when an innocent Mexican farmworker standing outside his home was injured last year by a police dog. But the case might not be fully closed: the farmworker in question has filed a lawsuit against the officer, the City of Abbotsford, and the Abbotsford Police Department, calling the attack "racist" and saying it forced him to return home early.

The incident occurred last July as Abbotsford officers looked for suspected border-jumpers. It prompted the Mexican consulate to demand answers after what it said was an "assault" on the farmworker. (The consulate declined to comment for this story, citing direction from the farmworker’s lawyer. An email to the lawyer was not returned.)

According to both the consulate last year and a lawsuit filed in January in small claims court, the farmworker was employed on a Mt. Lehman farm and standing outside his temporary on-farm housing when he was suddenly ordered to lay on the ground by a police officer. He said he was then punched and kicked by the officer and assaulted by a police dog. The event was witnessed by a second farmworker, the consulate said last summer.

According to the lawsuit, the farmworker was taken by his employer to hospital. Soon after, the officer arrived and took photos of the injuries. The farmworker said he felt "harassed and intimidated." The event caused the worker to leave his job a month before the end of his contract, the suit says. It alleges the actions were "grossly negligent, reckless, abusive, racist and showed a disregard for the Claimant’s rights and safety." Having been filed in small claims court, the farmworker is seeking the maximum that BC’s small claims court can award: $35,000.

No response has been filed in court. The Abbotsford Police Department declined to comment on the matter, citing the pending lawsuit.

Asked about the investigation into the case, the OPCC said it is bound by the Police Act’s confidentiality provisions, but that they could provide "limited information" because the incident was already public. It said the Vancouver Police Department undertook the investigation, and that the "discipline authority" in the case—a senior APD officer—made the determination that no misconduct took place.

The OPCC told The Current via email that it reviewed the investigation and was satisfied that the investigation "was thorough and complete." It noted that complainants can request a review of the decision but that no request was received. The OPCC statement concluded: "Based on a review of this matter, we determined that there is not a reasonable basis to believe the decision of the Discipline Authority is incorrect. As a result, the OPCC will not take any further action."

In the most-recent year for which data is available
, the OPCC was notified of 419 injuries caused by police that required hospitalization. That was a 4% increase from the previous year. Across all BC jurisdictions it oversees, the OPCC disagreed with 17 decisions by senior police officers (that was up from 9 such occurrences the previous year). In those cases, it appointed a retired judge to review the decisions.

—By Tyler Olsen
Need to Know
⚖ A man has pleded guilty in a fatal 2019 hit-and-run in Abbotsford [Abbotsford News]

👟 There are plans for a 32km greenway around Nicomen Island [Mission Record]

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Bus ridership in the Fraser Valley has increased considerably over the last 5 years. 📸  Tyler Olsen
The Agenda
Bus ridership across the Fraser Valley had reached a high 4 million rides per year—33% higher than 5 years agoprior to the pandemic. Within Chilliwack and Agassiz, and on the Fraser Valley Express, ridership doubled from 2012 to 2019. "I don’t know if we have any other regional districts in the province that can match that," Adriana McMullen, a BC Transit planner, told Chilliwack council. The week the pandemic was declared, ridership dropped to less than half of what it would have been. Although ridership increased somewhat as restrictions loosened (and while fares were removed), it still hasn’t reached pre-pandemic levels. However, Chilliwack’s Route 4, which goes from Promontory to the Chilliwack Mall, actually saw an increase in ridership during peak hours in 2020.

The Floor Is Yours: Have you stopped using transit during the pandemic?

Both the City of Langley and the Township of Langley will get $25,000 to develop poverty reduction plans for their communities. The hope is that the plans will help inform regional transportation planning, as well as parks and recreation plans. The funding comes from the Poverty Reduction Planning and Action Program, administered by the Union of BC Municipalities.
COVID latest
A day after officials revealed BC’s re-opening plans, Wednesday’s numbers bore more good news. Fraser Health posted its lowest single-day number in more than 6 months. School exposures have also dropped. Locally, numbers released late Wednesday were less rosy. Cases remain high, but are decreasing, in Abbotsford. But contrary to provincial trends, the number of new cases increased last week in Chilliwack and mostly held steady in Langley. [BCCDC COVID data]

Fraser Health
  • New cases: 250 / 327 average (down 32% from last week)
  • 296 hospitalizations (down 13% from last week)
  • 3 new deaths / 1,683 total
Around Town
🥽 The District of Mission’s recreation guide is now available. It lists a range of programs for residents at the Mission Leisure Centre and other facilities.

🏫 The Langley School District is hosting a virtual open house until May 31 for its 2021-22 operating budget to answer questions and get feedback.

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